The Greek tavern was entertaining the usual group of tourists and holiday makers when the tall, thin blonde haired girl walked in. She looked like any other visitor – a white t-shirt that clung to her frame, light blue pedal pushers and cork sandals, with a large white handbag over her shoulder. Stopping at the bar, she ordered a drink and looked round the various tables, her eyes alighting finally on one in a shaded corner where a lone man sat. A large Panama hat covered his head, but she recognised him as soon as she saw him. Taking her drink, she walked over and sat down.
“You know, Uncle George, the idea of being inconspicuous still hasn’t sunk in, has it?”
He turned and looked at the young woman, removing his hat to reveal a head covered in short cropped greying hair.
“Nice to see you too, Lily. You job obviously suits you.”
“Yeah, well – when I got your call I had to come over. You’re lucky I was in the area.”
“Luck had nothing to with it – Penny said you would be here.”
Lily Harmon took a sip from her glass. “So,” she said, “This is where you ended up? Last I heard, you almost got caught.”
“Almost being the mot juste,” George Simpson said as he took a drink of his coffee.
The sky was grey, leaden, threatening as DS Jennifer Wayne looked out over the courtyard of the police station. Scattered over the desk behind her were a number of files from across the country, detailing events associated with George Simpson over the last twelve months. From the time he’d escaped from the court, through to the recent Christmas raid, she and her boss DCI Grayson were trying to establish what he might be up to.
The door opened to allow DCI Jack Grayson to walk in. Jennifer looked up, and asked “How’s Charity?”
“Still recovering – she didn’t take the news of the family been held hostage too well.” He sat down and looked at the file. “Any reports?”
“We’ve talked to his sister, but have been unable to track her daughter Lily down. She seems to have disappeared, or else...”
“Or else gone to work for someone else,” Jack said finishing her sentence. “What about old haunts?”
“We have cars watching the three we know of in the local area – for the moment.”
Jennifer looked out of the window. “We may need to call them in – this snowstorm is going to hit any minute.”
Grayson looked up. “All right – tell the cars to pull out, but keep the other surveillance units in place. Tell them we’ll pay overtime – and not to go to sleep if they can help it.”
Sandy Holmes trudged through the falling snowflakes as she made her slow way back to her house. She wasn’t that old – in fact, she was in her late sixties, but the cold was getting to her this year more than usual, and from the heavy look in the skies she was beginning to remember storms from her own youth.
Closing the small gate in the hedge behind her, she walked up to the front door, her boots sinking into the snow as it lay on the ground. It took her a few moments to take her gloves off and find her keys, but it was a relief to her when she finally managed to close the door behind her and allow the warm air to bring life back into her body.
Kicking off the fur topped boots she had worn on her feet, Sandy walked slowly into the kitchen and filled the kettle with water, purely with the intention of warming herself internally. The last thing she expected was to hear a male voice saying “I’d love a cup as well, if you are making one.” She looked up, grasping hold of the bread knife as she did so, and slowly turned round. The kitchen was gloomy, the external light muted by the metal grey skies, and she peered into the shadows, saying “Who’s there?”
“Me,” the male voice said again, and Sandy was surprised to find her mouth covered with a gloved hand while the other one grabbed hold of her wrist, forcing her with his grip to drop the knife so that the metal blade clattered on the floor.
The smell of sweat and grime filled her nostrils as the voice said “Do exactly as I tell you – I don’t want to hurt you, but I need to collect something I left here some time ago. If you promise not to scream or struggle, I’ll take my hand away from your hand. All right?”
Sandy nodded, mumbling something unintelligible as she looked out at the increasing fall of snow outside. All she wanted was the hand taken away, the taste of leather making her feel slightly nauseous, but before that could happen the telephone rang. Her captor tightened his grip on her mouth, making her squeal as the answering machine clicked in. As the greeting ended, a young female voice came over the loudspeaker.
“Mrs Holmes, this is Alex from the surgery. I’m sorry we haven’t been yet, but I will call round in about an hour with your prescription. See you then.”
As the line went dead, the gloved hand was removed from Sandy’s mouth and she was spun round to face a man with short greying hair, wearing a sheepskin jacket and trousers.
“I’m sorry about this,” he said as he took Sandy by the arm and led her into the front room. Forcing her to sit on the couch, he quickly closed the curtains before turning the light on and giving each person their first clear view of the other. Sandy saw he was in his early fifties, slightly portly, and a steely look in his eye. For the man’s part, he was looking at the elderly lady as she sat there in a brown sweater and tweed skirt, her grey hair done up in a bun and her horn rimmed glasses sitting on her nose.
Sandy gulped as she realised who the man was. “Wh.... What do you want here?” she stammered.
“Not to hurt you, at any rate – but I need to keep you quiet,” the man said as he took a chair from the dining table in the rear of the room and brought it into the centre. “Sit down – I want to make you comfortable.”
The snow was lying thickly on the ground, and an eerie silence had fallen over the street as the two women were walking up the road. They were wrapped up in heavy padded jackets, one grey and one black and chatting quietly as they trudged through the snow.
Alex Salmond was a twenty year old nurse based at the local surgery, and was wearing the grey jacket over her short sleeved tunic and a dark blue sweater. The legs of her blue trousers were tucked into a pair of brown Ugg boots, the thick sole causing impression on the snow as it fell from the sky. Bobbi Morse was her fellow nurse, a stunning young lady of Caribbean descent. Her thick dark hair was under a woollen hat; while on her feet were a pair of thick fur boots, the tassels of which bounced off the front of her calves as she walked along.
“Thanks for coming with me, Bobbi – this isn’t a night to be caught out alone, and I needed the company.”
Bobbi smiled as they turned into the street. “Well, it’s on my way home – but hopefully it won't take too long. I get the feeling nothing’s going to be moving in a little while.”
As they turned into the path to Sandy’s front door, Bobbi closed the gate behind them as Alex trudged up to the front door. She looked at the note that was fixed to the front door, and passed it to Bobbi as she joined her on the door step.
“Come in – door open. I’m wrapped up with a hot water bottle. S Holmes.”
Pushing the front door open, Alex called out “Mrs Holmes, its Alex with your prescription.” She could see a light on through the partially open door to the front room, so as Bobbi closed the door to keep the cold air out Alex made her way towards the light.
“Are you in here, Mrs Holmes?” Alex said as she pushed the door open, but when she saw Sandy sitting in the chair she stopped dead in her tracks. Sandy was staring back at her, her eyes wide over the scarf that had been stuffed into her mouth with the edges hanging in the open air. Her wrists had been taped down to the side bars at the back of the wooden chair, while her ankles were taped together in front of her, the tape wrapped around the pair of thick woollen socks over her feet. Around her waist was more tape, holding both Sandy to the chair back and a hot water bottle to her chest.
“Mrs Holmes?” Alex said with a slight quiver, looking at the frightened woman as she moved her eyes and head from side to side. Turning round, she saw Bobbi standing there, her eyes filled with fear as she looked down at the kitchen knife pressed against her throat. “Inside please,” a male voice said, “and do exactly what I tell you.” She backed up as Bobbi was pushed into the room and the door closed by a man holding the knife in one hand and a large roll of silver tape in the other – a man Alex recognised from the local news.
“You’re George Simpson,” Alex said as the man stood with his back to the door. “Guilty as charged,” George said as he looked at the two girls standing there. “It’s a busy day in this house, but I just need an hour or two uninterrupted. Both of you, take your coats and other things off – you must be boiling standing there in them.”
Alex unzipped her jacket and threw it into the corner of the room George pointed at, while Bobbi removed her own jacket to reveal a white smock top over a black vest top. George kept his eyes on them as he walked over, picked up each coat in turn and emptied the pockets onto the floor.
“Very good,” he said as he walked back to stand beside Sandy. “Now, I need to minimise interruptions. You,” he said pointing the knife at Bobbi, “take your boots off and throw them over there. They’re leaving snow on this lady’s rug anyway.”
“All right, just don’t hurt us,” Bobbi said as she pulled her legs out of the boots. Her feet were covered by a pair of striped socks, and the legs of her stirrup pants tucked into the wool. Picking up the boots, she handed them to George who placed them in the corner before picking up the roll of tape he had left on Sandy’s lap.
“Catch,” he said as he threw the roll at Alex, who caught it in her hands as she stood there. “Do you really expect me to tape myself up,” she said as she looked defiantly back at him.
“No, of course not,” George said with a smile. “I expect you to tape your friend up. She is going to put her hands behind her back, and you are going to tape them together tightly behind her back. We’ll take it from there.”
“You want her to tie me up?” Bobbi said as she looked first at Alex, then Sandy and finally George, a smile playing on his lips.
“I do, and I can’t do it myself and watch her at the same time. Now, do as you’re told and this can be over so much more quickly.”
“I’m sorry, Bobbi,” Alex said as the taller girl turned to stare at George while Alex taped her wrist tightly together behind her back, keeping the tape over the material of her vest top as much as possible in the hope it would give her some movement. The top, however, was a thin thermal one, and the tape held her wrists together as firmly as if it had been applied to skin.
“Very good,” George said. “Now, wrap the tape around her waist so that her wrists are held against her back, then around her chest so that her arms are held nicely in place. Don’t worry about running out – I’ve extra rolls in the kitchen.”
“What are you doing in this house?” Alex asked as she tore the tape off from Bobbi’s waist and started to tape her arms to her side, wrapping the tape below her breasts as she did so.
“Just collecting something I left here when I lived her a few years ago,” George said as she watched the girl sit down on the couch, struggling against her binding. “You’re doing a good job there – are you a nurse by any chance?”
“And if I am?”
“It makes things a little easier. Now then, around her ankles, thighs and calves if you please, nice and tight again.”
“You don’t have to be so tight,” Bobbi whispered as Alex taped her ankles and feet together over her socks.
“Would you prefer he did it,” she whispered back as she started to wrap the tape over Bobbi’s leggings below her knees. “At least this way I can make sure we’re not causing a blood or nerve problem.”
“Fair enough,” Bobbi said with a shrug as Alex taped her legs together above her knees. As she tore the last strip of tape off, Alex looked up to se George looking through the curtains.
“The snow’s not letting up – the worst I’ve seen it in many a year,” he said as she walked over and looked at Bobbi. “Very nice work – now gag her.”
“I’m sorry,” Bobbi said as she looked at him.
“I need to take your friend next door for a few minutes to help me – so I need to make sure you and the nice lady here are both unable to call out. Unless you want me to stuff your mouth, just purse your lips while your friend puts a strip over your lips.”
“Look at it this way,” Bobbi said as she looked at Alex slowly tearing a strip off the roll, “I’ll get rid of that unsightly hair on my top lip.”
“I wasn’t going to say that,” Alex said as she laughed nervously. “Ready?”
“Hmm,” Bobbi said as she closed her mouth and pressed her lips together. As Alex smoothed the strip of tape over her mouth, George tore two more strips off the role and instructed her to further close Bobbi’s mouth over.
“Let me help you,” George said as he pushed Bobbi onto her side on the couch, her head resting on the arm of the long seat. “Now, take your boots off and come with me,” he said as he turned to Alex. She looked down at the Ugg boots on her feet, the dark stain of the snow around the sole, before kicking them off and standing there in her white socks.
Taking her by the arm, George led her out of the room, closing the door to behind them. Bobbi looked over at Sandy in her chair, shivering slightly as she sat with her wrists and legs bound.
“Hw r u, m hlms?” Bobbi tried to say through her gag, and Sandy looked up at the new arrival for the first time. She shook her head, mumbling “m sre” through the cloth in her mouth as Bobbi looked on.
In a room to the rear of the house, Alex took hold of a table as George stood on the other side, moving it to one side of the room.
“Very kind of you to help,” George said as they set the table down on the ground.
“I had a choice,” she replied sarcastically as George indicated she should kneel at the other end of a large rug from him.
“Well, no – the phones are disconnected, and your mobiles out of reach of your friend, but by helping me we’ll be all done so much more quickly. Help me roll this back, please.”
“I don’t understand – what could be in this house that you need? We’re in the very area you don’t want to be in.”
“Very true – but I do need what is here,” George said as he examined the floorboards under the rug. “Ah – here it is. Now then, I need you to turn round for a minute, please.”
“I wondered how long it would be,” Alex said as she turned and crossed her wrists behind her back, listening to the ripping sound of the tape as it left the roll and was attached to her wrists, pulling them together over the bare skin of her arms as George pulled the sleeves of her jumper up. Turning her round, he sat her down on a box in the room and returned to the floor, probing between the planks with the knife before he lifted one out of the set.
“This won’t take long,” George said as he pulled two more planks out, and removed an old military ammo box from under the floorboards. Alex gasped as he opened the box, opened a small sack inside and drew a number of diamonds out, holding them up so they glistened in the light from the electric bulb above his head.
“My pension fund,” George said in response to her mute question, as he withdrew a number of sacks and stuffed them into a briefcase he had on the floor. “When the police come to talk to you, you can say you saw the proceeds of the Jermayne Street raid of ’88, and the Balsom Street robbery in ’95.” Replacing the empty box, her put back the floorboards and stood up, walking over to Alex and taking her by the arm.
“Let’s take you back to the others, shall we?” George said with a smile as he led Alex back into the front room, where Bobbi and Sandy looked up as they walked in.
“I won’t be long now ladies – just let me make this young lady comfortable and I’ll be on my way. Please, stand still and let me tape your arms to your side.”
A short time later, Alex grunted as George smoothed a third length of tape over her lips, preventing her from talking to the other two as she sat on the floor, her arms, legs and ankles covered in grey bands of tape. George left the room for a minute, returning with the briefcase in his hand to say “Goodbye” before her closed the door on them. Alex struggled to try and get free as she listened to the front door open, and few minutes later close again. Thinking the man had gone, she started to shuffle over to the pile of coats and boots on the floor, hoping to find her mobile phone and call for help.
This meant the surprise she felt when George walked back in the room to find her kicking over her coat was complete.
“My apologies, ladies, but the snow is too thick for me to leave yet,” he said as he placed the case on the coffee table, before taking Alex by the arms and pulling her back. “You will have to put up with my company for a while longer.”
Leaving Alex back against the couch, he walked over and stood in front of Sandy. “I’m going to take the scarf out and release you from the chair,” he said, “but if you do anything – anything stupid, you and these girls are in real trouble. Understand?”
“HHMMM” Sandy said as she nodded, then gasped as George pulled the scarf out. “Thank you, I need to move,” she said as he cut the tape that held her to the chair, allowing her to stand up and rub her wrists.
“Don’t get too happy – do you need to relieve yourself?” When Sandy nodded, he took her by the arm and opened the door, leading her up the stairs. Both Bobbi and Alex listened as the toilet flushed, and the other two came back down.
“We’re going to make some coffee, and then I’ll cut both of you free. Remember – I’m in charge, so no funny stuff,” George said as he walked past, leaving the two girls to look at each other and wonder what he meant.
The clock on the mantelpiece struck ten as the four people sat round the table, drinking coffee and the three women looking at George as he sat there.
“Someone is going to come looking for us,” Alex said as she looked at the older man.
“I beg your pardon?”
“Someone is going to miss me or Bobbi, and they will try to find us.”
“Oh I would not be surprised – but have you seen the news?”
George stood up and escorted the three women back to the chairs, making sure they sat down before turning on the television as the news came on.
“The headlines – the snow storm has caused massive disruption to travel and roads, and police are advising anyone who has not set off on their commute home to make alternative arrangements....”
The two girls looked at each other, shuddering as they realised their families would assume they were just staying at work. George smiled as he turned the television off.
“Well, it looks like I’m going to be here a little while longer. I suggest we make ourselves as comfortable as possible. Who wants to use the toilet first?”
Jack Grayson looked up and accepted the steaming mug from Jennifer. As they looked out of the window, the large snowflakes were dissipating, and a light shower was continuing to build up the snow mounds outside.
“A good night for criminals,” Jack said as he sipped his drink.
“You’re joking, boss,” Jennifer said as she looked at him, “There’s no cover and no way of covering tracks.”
“Also no-one looking round or keeping an eye on others.” Their conversation was interrupted by the ringing of her cell phone.
“Really? It does seem a long time – what do you want to do?
“Hmm – all right, I’ll talk to him” Jennifer put her hand over the mouthpiece and turned to Jack. “It’s Black – he’s watching one of the houses Simpson once lived in. Apparently the owner came back tonight, then an hour later two young girls walked in.”
“And the girls haven’t come out yet.”
Grayson turned and looked at his junior. “How far away?”
“Ten minutes by car, but walking...”
“I hope you’ve got some walking shoes,” Grayson said as he grabbed his coat. “Tell Black we’ll be there as soon as we can, and to keep watching.”
“As much as I can be, I suppose.”
Sandy was lying on her bed, having changed into a long nightgown and a pair of bedsocks. Her wrists were bound together behind her back with a large headscarf, and another one used to hold her ankles together. A long silk band had then been used to hold her ankle sot her wrists, not tightly but enough to prevent much movement.
“Well, I’m going to take care of the girls now – just let me stop you from raising the alarm too easily,” George said as he rolled a silk square into a band. Pulling the centre into Sandy’s mouth, he tied the end tightly together at the base of her neck, before making sure her head was laid on a pillow and covering her with her duvet.
“I’m sorry you had to be caught up in this – I hope to be gone by the morning,” he said as he turned off the light. Sandy mumbled “Thnk u” as she tried to make herself as comfortable as possible.
“And how are you both coping,” George said with a smile as he walked back into the living room. Alex and Bobbi were sat back to back, their arms wrapped around each other’s bodies and their wrists tied together with lengths of rope George had cut off a length of washing line. Further lengths had been used to tie their ankles together, and their legs above their knees, while their arms were also tied together around the upper arms.
“When are you going to leave us alone?” Bobbi said as she looked up at the intruder.
“As soon as the snow stops,” George said as he looked out of the window. “Until then, why don’t you just keep quiet and try to get some sleep? I’ll turn the light off, and if you promise not to scream I won’t gag you.”
From the house opposite Sandy’s, three pairs of eyes watched as the light went off in the front room.
“You’re sure they haven’t gone?” Grayson said as he looked out.
“Positive, Sir – look at the path. There are no footprints?”
“What do you want to do?” Jennifer asked as she looked out.
“Give it an hour, and then we’ll go over. If he’s there, he’s got hostages. If not, we apologise. Either way, an hour won’t hurt.”
George opened his eyes suddenly and looked up. Standing, he walked over to the window and peeked out as Alex groggily said “wht nw”
“My apologies, ladies,” George said hurriedly as he picked up his suitcase and put his coat on, “I have to leave now. Please, open your mouths.”
“Whmmph” Alex said as he hurriedly stuffed a handkerchief into her mouth, before repeating the process on the barely awake Bobbi. The two girls watched as George ran out of the room, heading for the rear of the house just as a male voice shouted out “Stop right there, Simpson!”
Through the open door, Alex saw two men in coats running after George, while a woman ran in and pulled the cloth out of her mouth. “I’m DS Wayne,” she said as she ungagged Bobbi. “How many are there?”
“Just the house owner – she’s upstairs. How did you...”
“Explanations later, I’ll be back,” Jennifer said as she ran out of the room.
Climbing over the wall, George ran as fast as he could through the snowdrifts in the back alleys, hearing the sounds of the two men after him all the time. Turning into a main street, he looked hurriedly around for cover in the desolate grey and white landscape, heading eventually across the road and towards the railway station. As he turned a corner, he heard someone shout “Simpson! In Here!” Seeing a door open in the side of a grey van, he jumped in and panted as the sound of two men running passed by.
“Thanks – and who the hell are you?” George asked as he looked at the small, black clad man sat beside him.
“A friend of John Jacobs,” he said as he shook his hand. “We’ve been sent to get you out of here – permanently.”